PUTTING BABY AT THE CENTRE OF BIRTHING
Forty years ago a French obstetrician who had delivered thousands of babies walked away from his practice and became the world’s leading childbirth educator and writer. Leboyer opened his major book with a photograph of a newborn with his mother, father and delivery doctor. “Everyone is radiant with happiness … except the child. The child? You hadn’t even noticed the child, had you?” he wrote. The baby’s expression appeared to be one of utter misery and pain. Leboyer explained that birth is most often about medical teams, procedures and women. He titled his book Birth Without Violence.1
His ideas gradually led to changes that have seen some delivery rooms become quieter, dimly lit places and babies placed on mothers’ bellies immediately after birth, instead of being subjected to checks that, under normal circumstances, could wait. Gentleness and contact with mother became priorities. Babies’ needs were considered for the first time and Leboyer’s major legacy was this shift in focus towards one in which babies had rights and birthing was to be considered from their point of view.
Today scientific studies have been done and many more books have been published on the theme. David B Chamberlain, a psychologist who lectured on birth psychology in twenty countries, studied the mind of the unborn child and wrote beguilingly from the new-born’s perspective: ‘I felt I knew a lot … (then) I saw all these people acting real crazy. That’s when I thought I really had a more intelligent mind, because I knew what the situation was with me and they didn’t seem to. They seemed to ignore me. They were doing things to ..the outside of me. But they acted like that’s all there was. When I tried to tell them things, they just wouldn’t listen, like that noise wasn’t really anything. It didn’t sound too impressive, but it was all I had.’2
Hypnobirthing continues this legacy, taking the perspective that women’s customary fear of childbirth is best faced and dealt with in preparation for the actual event and that mothers can take control of their own pregnancy and labour. As a doula and Hypnobirthing practitioner my focus is always on a relaxed mother and baby. To this end I encourage mothers to trust that under normal circumstances their body and baby know best. This means going into labour naturally, believing in this innate wisdom and the normality of the process, rather than, for example, having unnecessary inductions or caesareans. I help mothers prepare for labour by learning to deeply relax and by being fully informed. In this way their fears are addressed and instead, excited, relaxed anticipation becomes the norm. Along the way, I believe it is important that mothers make their own informed choices about all procedures, such as ultrasounds.
In turn, this knowledge and emotional and mental mindset throughout pregnancy feeds through to baby via mum’s hormones and baby is fully respected as being an active, sensate participant in both pregnancy and labour. Then optimal circumstances surround the baby’s growth and subsequent entry to life on Planet Earth.
- Leboyer, Frederick. Birth Without Violence. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994. 1st ed. 1975
- David B. Chamberlain, Babies Remember Birth, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc. Los Angeles. The book is now available in a revised and updated 3rd edition with a new title, The Mind of Your Newborn Baby Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books